Despite quality work from its pitching staff, the Michigan softball team's offense couldn't deliver in extra innings against UCF. Julianne Yoon/Daily. Buy this photo.

ORLANDO, Fla. — An opposing offense can only be expected to stay dormant for so long. 

Most days, holding the opposition to two runs over 10 innings would give enough time to score a game-winning third run. But Michigan’s pitching staff did just that, and the Wolverines still couldn’t earn the victory. 

Without support from the bats late, the Michigan softball team (37-17 overall, 16-9 Big Ten) came up short against Central Florida (48-12) on Saturday, 3-2 in 11 innings. While the Wolverines scored the first two runs of the game, the Knights drove in three unanswered to win the game as Michigan’s offense vanished after the fifth inning. 

“Runs were at a premium,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “You have to credit their pitching and our lack of adjustments. We didn’t make the adjustment we needed to make, and they beat us, and beat us, and beat us.”

Early on, though, the Wolverines’ offense did string some at-bats together to take the lead.

In the top of the second inning, UCF right-hander Kama Woodall lost her command. On just 10 pitches total, she walked fifth-year third baseman Taylor Bump and graduate second baseman Melina Livingston. Freshman utility player Annabelle Widra chopped a ball over the third baseman’s head and into left field, scoring Bump and putting Michigan ahead by one. 

Widra then started a new rally in the fifth inning, blooping a single into shallow left center field. Freshman shortstop Ella McVey followed it up by placing a perfect two-strike bunt for a single. And though it appeared as though the rally would end with no runs scored, Knights second baseman Justene Molina struggled to read a chopper that bounced off her glove and into the outfield, scoring Widra. 

As the offense gave her some early run support, fifth-year left-hander Meghan Beaubien worked through UCF’s lineup efficiently. 

Batter after Knights batter fell victim to her offspeed pitches, frozen as they dropped perfectly into the strike zone. Through the first five innings, Beaubien struck out five — including two punchouts against star third baseman Jada Cody. 

“It kept us in the game,” Hutchins said. “She gave us a chance to win the game.”

But after the fifth inning, Michigan failed to put anything else on the board.

And in the bottom of the sixth inning, Beaubien lapsed for the first time. With two outs, she plunked first baseman Shannon Doherty before catcher Ashleigh Griffin ripped an RBI double down the left-field line to cut the Wolverines’ lead in half. 

Beaubien exited the game, and Widra took the mound. Though she escaped the sixth inning unscathed with a punch out, she soon faced trouble again in the following inning after giving up a leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt. 

But this time, Widra couldn’t escape. She gave up an RBI-double to pinch hitter Maddie Bejarano, tying the game at two apiece. Senior right-hander Alex Storako entered the game, and induced a groundout to extend the game into extra innings. 

But as Storako and Beaubien — who re-entered in the ninth inning — continuously kept the game tied, the offense failed to produce. Even as Woodall’s pitch count soared dangerously close to 200, the bats found no success. 

In the last six innings, Michigan managed only one base hit — a bunt single by freshman outfielder Ellie Sieler. 

“The game came down to our lack of ability to get more runs on the board,” Hutchins said. “Bottom line is we had opportunities to score and didn’t.”

Well into the fifth hour under the beating Florida sun, Michigan’s defense couldn’t hold UCF back any longer. 

With one out in the 11th inning, as her pitch count climbed higher, Beaubien started to lose the zone and walked Molina. Though she induced a grounder to shortstop for what should have been the second out, the flip to second base slipped out of Livingston’s glove, extending the inning. 

Then Bejarano broke through one last time. She ripped a line drive down the right-field line, bringing Molina in from second to end the game. 

“We had our share of opportunities,” Hutchins said. “We can’t expect our pitchers to be flawless or anybody on the field to be flawless.”

And though it was the pitching that finally faltered in the 11th inning, the Wolverines’ offense had its chances. Michigan’s pitching staff kept it in the game for the previous 10 innings. 

But when the Wolverines needed a run most, the bats simply could not get it done.